Before I get started let me say that everyone I know who has been to Egypt during Ramadan describes it as a magical time of year. I am experiencing my third Ramadan in Egypt and I can still honestly say -- I just don't get it.
Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohamed (saws). During the month of Ramadan Muslims are required to fast from everything (and I mean everything you can imagine) from just before sunrise to sunset. At sunset, when the Adhan is recited, Muslims break their fast with a meal.
Now, for me personally, I cannot eat a big meal after fasting all day. OK I'll be honest here, I have never actually fasted an entire day without eating or drinking anything. It is just too much for my body to handle; and it has nothing to do with food and eating. I can go without food no problem, but to go without water, I just don't understand how this can be healthy, especially in a desert country where I'm parched all day and can never drink enough water.
Besides fasting during Ramadan, Muslims are supposed to read the entire Quran during the month, give to charity, be kinder to people, pray five times a day especially if they don't pray at other times of the year, and if possible, go to the masjid in the evening for special Ramadan prayers (sorry but I don't remember what this is called).
I have a few points of contention here:
1. Those who fast all day during the month of Ramadan are told that their past sins are forgiven. I think this is wonderful, but I have observed a lot of people fasting who then turn around and sin in some of the most egregious ways.
2. Some who fast do it in such a way that it shouldn't be accepted - they stay up all night and sleep all day - waking up just in time for iftar (breaking of the fast).
3. Those who pray during the night, when prayers are more accepted by God, end up going to work the next day and are lazy in their work responsibilities, making excuses for not being able to work, maybe even calling in sick because they were praying all night.
4. There are legitimate excuses for not fasting: illness, travel, women during their period, etc. While these are legitimate reasons for not fasting, Egyptian society looks at me strangely if I'm drinking a soda or snacking on something. It is not for anyone to judge but God while someone is not fasting, but some people are very judgmental and will be the first to ask "Why aren't you fasting?" Excuse me, but my reasons for not fasting are no one's business but my own. And if you want me to embarass you, I will.
Please don't think I'm a bad person for saying these things. One of the beauties of Islam is that God knows what is in your heart, blessings are based on intention, regardless of the outcome.
If you live in Egypt, please show a little compassion for those who are not fasting because some people don't like to advertise their personal struggles.